Vintage motorcycle racing legend Keith Campbell gives us a tour of his "barn" filled with timeless bikes.
Nestled deep in the North Georgia foothills, down a winding country road outside a town called Homer, lies the hidden gem of a classic and race bike collection owned by a local legend in vintage motorcycle racing.
That legend is Keith Campbell, who has not only amassed an outstanding assortment of timeless motorcycles, he has preserved many of the bikes he and his son, Kyle, raced. Humbly referring to himself as simply an “enthusiast,” Keith nevertheless has achieved much in the sport, both in riding and racing.
Enjoying a serene retirement from racing as well as the automotive business — “what paid for my motorcycle habit,” Keith quips — he now devotes his energies to maintaining his impressive collection, riding the bikes whenever possible (every bike in the collection runs and gets ridden), and aiding Kyle in his own venture, Hourglass Cycles.
I visited Keith recently at his “barn” as he calls it, stunned at the incredible array of two-wheeled history under his roof. He sat down for a few minutes with me to share his love of motorcycles, his racing years, the bikes he owns and the legacy now being continued by Kyle.
Keith’s current collection holds 50 motorcycles, but he admits he’s had as many as 94. He thinned the herd, he asserts, because “I couldn’t keep them all running, didn’t have time to ride them all. So I got rid of the ones I had no sentimental attachment to.” The bikes in his collection are special, he says. “Friends, family members, memories … some of these bikes I’ve owned over 40 years, some Kyle and I have taken trips together on. The bikes I have now I am very attached to.”
I ask Keith how the love for motorcycling got started for him, how he first got bit by the bike bug. “I couldn’t afford a car as a teenager,” Keith says. “I wanted a motorcycle anyway, but my parents would never let me have one. Their favorite saying was, ‘As long as your feet are under my table, you are never having a motorcycle.’ I bought a 1964 Honda 305 Scrambler. I kept it out in the woods, away from the house. When I wanted to go to town, I’d walk out in front of the house, stick my thumb in the wind like I was gonna hitch a ride, walk out of sight a little, then go into the woods and get on that motorcycle.” He was eventually found out, about a year later, and his parents reluctantly acquiesced. He rode all through college and beyond, straddling a 1967 Honda Superhawk, among others. There have been times in his life Keith didn’t own a car, but he has never been without a motorcycle.
Keith entered the world of vintage motorcycle racing rather late in life. Having spent some time racing dirt track cars, Keith took up moto racing in about 1989. “Somebody owed me some money, couldn’t pay me, so they gave me a race bike,” he recalls. “I thought, ‘Well hell, I can ride, so let’s go race it!’ But I was 40-something by then! I ran into a guy named Carl Patrick, who builds race bikes, and he built me an XR750, like the one I have out on the floor. To me, that was the quintessential race bike. That’s what a bike ought to look like, sound like and run like. I told Carl, ‘I want to buy my way to the middle of the pack.’ As it turned out, we did a little better than that.” One step led to another, the wins and podiums piled up, and he eventually signed the likes of three-time AMA Grand National Champion and Hall of Famer Jay Springsteen, multi-year AHRMA champion Tim Joyce, and even his own son, Kyle.
Keith took his first personal win at age 49, when detractors were shouting that he was too old and past his prime. Yet over a 20-year period, Keith and his team took over 60 wins or podiums. That’s an impressive record, at any age.
Racing is hard, taxing on the mind and body, a fact Keith readily affirms. “I busted my ass a time or two, went down at Mid-Ohio. That hurt. I fell off at Road Atlanta, broke nine bones, punctured a lung and couldn’t stand up straight for six months. I still have the helmets from both of those that saved my life,” Keith says. But there’s something special about the motorcycling community, a camaraderie not found in many other places in life. “I’ve never met an a###### at a motorcycle race event,” Keith says. “I’ve raced cars since the 1960s, I fly aerobatic airplanes and flew air shows over 30 years, but the people at a motorcycle race are always the best. They’ll do anything for you, help any way they possibly can. Just people I enjoy being around. To me, that’s the best part of riding and racing — the people.”
His team, Hourglass Racing, was well known and respected across the country. They competed in AMA Vintage, WERA Vintage and AHRMA racing at tracks such as Grattan Raceway in Michigan, Road America in Wisconsin, Daytona International Speedway in Florida, Road Atlanta in Georgia and Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama, to cite a few.
The Hourglass Racing name was derived from a logo Keith chose, an hourglass, after being reminded about his age one too many times.
“I thought, ‘Well, all the sand is almost gone, like an hourglass, so I might as well make the most of what I’ve got left.’ I wasn’t looking for a memorable name, it just sort of fit,” Keith quips.
I ask Keith about favorite vintage racing memories, and he tells me this gem: “My proudest racing moment was at Daytona in 2004 in an AHRMA Formula 750 race, when we finished 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th. My two hired guns, Springsteen and Joyce, finished one and two on our XR750TTs. I was running third on my XR until I ran off the track in the infield kink. Kyle got by me on the Honda CR750, and it took the rest of the race for me to catch him. He beat me to the line by about 20 feet.” Hourglass swept the podium and took top honors. Impressive, indeed.
Keith’s last race came in 2009 at Barber Motorsports Park, concluding 20 years of vintage racing. The packed trophy cases, photos, newspaper and magazine clippings, and of course the race bikes in his showroom attest to the long-running success of Hourglass.
The legacy of motorcycles continues with son Kyle, proprietor of Hourglass Cycles in Buford, Georgia, selling Triumph, BMW, MV Augusta and Motus. When I ask Keith about Kyle’s following in his footsteps, he thinks about it for a moment and then says, “Kyle has been riding motorcycles since he was 6 years old. Dirt bikes, Honda XRs, stuff like that. He got his driver’s license in April 1996, and by June I had a BMW R1100RS and a Harley tourer. I put him on the BMW, I rode the Harley, and using ChatterBox intercoms we rode to California and back. It was a couple of weeks on the road, I guess. I loved it, and I think he did, too.” A cross-country ride cemented a deep love of riding in Kyle, as well as the already deep relationship a father and son possessed.
After 52 years of riding and racing, Keith still loves motorcycles as much as he did in his teens. “I feel just as pumped to ride today as when I first threw a leg over,” Keith declares. I ask him to name his favorite bikes in the collection, and he smiles. “I joke that my favorite bike is the last one I rode! But seriously, that R90S in Daytona Orange is one of them. I love old Triumphs, though I ain’t gonna go very far from home on one! I love BMWs, old and new. If I were going to ride to California, it would be on a BMW GS. There’s a 1972 Ducati GT out there that I’ve had since 1977. It is the most original Ducati GT anywhere in the world. I dare anybody to defy that. It’s perfect, and it’s original. Always been babied, always been kept up. That’s another favorite.”
The R90S and Ducati GT are also among my favorites in his collection, along with an incredible Kenny Dreer Norton VR880 Commando Sprint Special, gleaming in the shop lights. I reluctantly conclude my rewarding time with this Southern gentleman, hoping I’ll have a chance soon to ride with him for a day in the mountains just north of his home.
If you are ever in Georgia, a little northeast of Atlanta, look up Hourglass Cycles in Buford. Ask for Kyle, and get him to walk you around the facilities and show off their incredible array of bikes. Just maybe, time permitting, he’ll take a little ride north with you, up past a town called Homer, and down a long, winding, country road to a “barn” with some truly astounding two-wheeled finds in it.
And you’ll get to meet a friendly, down-to-earth, local motorcycling legend, whom Kyle affectionately calls “Dad.” MC